Children in Africa

Children in Africa

Apart from the standard safari-trip in East Africa, there is one more “entertainment” the locals will try to attract you with – financial aid to children. This happens on several levels: from children following you and yelling “Give me your dollar” to grown-ups professionally asking for money to fund children. At the same time, there are still decent funds which supply themselves independently.

For the first time, we encountered a fund for children in Katesh.

The Canadian Harambee Education Society is a Canadian mission funding girls’ education. In this way, the mission is similar to many others. In East Africa, education is given primarily to boys as it requires payments, and there is usually not enough money for the girls’ school in the families with many children. That is why most of the funds try to help to the girls, following the slogan “Educating a boy, you educate one person, educating a girl, you educate the whole family”. Many girls have patrons – rich Europeans and Americans, sponsoring their education. The portrait of such a sponsor is usually hung in the girls’ (and later – women’s) rooms, he is treated as the second father.
The fund of Katesh also helps to Tanzanian and Kenyan girls through the European and American donations, in a more organized way though, since 1992. Correspondingly, the mission has two offices – in Kenya and Tanzania. The donations you are asked to make are quite high – around 500 euros per year per girl. At the moment of our visit, the Tanzanian office supported around 50 girls. They try to place girls in boarding schools (wherever possible) to maximize their success: usually the girls at home are too busy with housework to study. Visiting the Barbaig tribe in Katesh, we asked the father of the family, what he thinks about the fact that their girls are being taken away for education instead of working. The father thought of it in a very positive way. Still, according to the feedback of the organizers of this and other funds, far not all the families care about the education so much.
For the first seven years, the children at school are being taught in Swahili, and then all the subjects are switched to English. This is a very difficult moment, when many give up. We also spoke about the relations within tribes with the fund workers (they were very friendly); according to them, any arguments existing had been solved when Julius, the father of nation had come – since then 140 tribes of Tanzania has been treating each other as family, despite the difference in language and religion.
Couple of days after visiting Katesh, we went to Mwanza (in Tanzania too) and stayed there with the couchsurfer named Dorocella. As a young girl, Dorocella was working as a flight attendant and met her Dutch husband in the sky. She moved to Holland, bore and grew up two kids. After that, she decided to go back and help to her motherland. At the moment of our visit, Dorocella’s fund supported about 30 girls, differently from the Katesh mission though. Dorocella and girls have their vegetable garden, cook for themselves, make and sell crafts, and do not ask for money from rich Mzungu. Before we came, they had been celebrating Christmas, having prepared everything themselves and organized the fair too.


Dorocella patiently teaches the girls to earn and save what is left after the education fee has been paid. She also rewards those who study well with additional money for their money box. She teaches the girls to put money in the bank, so that by the time they are 18, some sum of money would already be available for them. This sum may help them to be independent from their families. The thing is that fathers and uncles often ask the girls to beg in the streets, taking alms to themselves, choose husbands for the girls or even rape them. The girls cannot do anything – even complain – since they will shame their family and themselves then.
The next day, we met the girls and two of them showed us to the so-called dancing rocks.

Then, we sat together, told about ourselves and our country. Dorocella brought the map so that we could show where we live. She keeps bringing foreigners to meet the girls and tell them how large the world is, how many opportunities and professions they do not know about are there. The girls mostly told us that they want to become teachers, nurses and seamstresses – indeed, not too diverse. Then one of them started the discussion: what is more important – money or education? It was very interesting to listen to the girls’ opinions, and the majority agreed that money is more important. We reailized how hard it was for Dorocella to work, and how influential family values are for the girls. Nevertheless, one of them argued that in case of fire one might not be able to save money, but your education will be always with you.
We also talked about children: the girls mainly wanted to have maximum two (more – if they have money), with at least one boy (boys are certainly more important in Tanzania than girls).
Then we were taking pictures, saying buy, and hugging.

The next meeting with Pigmy kids taught us that education is not always for the good. One rich European decided to move the tribe from the forest where they had been living and hunting for ages to the hills where it was easier to arrange the school. On the hills, the Pigmys did not have their own land, and even if the had, they did not know how to cultivate it. Their school is indeed good: children speak English very well. The only problem is that they use English to say “Give me your money”, “Give me your sweater“, “Do you have anything to give me?“ This is not very surprising, since there is indeed not much to eat in the tribe, and if the tourists leave money to the chief who spends it on drinking.

In Jinjia, Uganda, we also got to the fundraising couchsurfer. Nevertheless, he behaved differently from Dorocella. The children he helped to were funded only through couchsurfers: some bought the roof materials, some left money for something else. We bought the exercise books and were asked to give them out to the kids solemnly. Kids happily carried them away, crumpled, and stained. Kids are kids, but it is not quite clear whether the exercise books survived till school.


One also has to understand that the help does not always reach the children. In Nairobi, we stayed with the girl who had grown up in the orphanage. She told that many things sent by Americans and Europeans to the orphanage had never reached the kids: they had often been kept for themselves by the orphanage officials. The letters kids were sending to their sponsors were carefully checked so that they would not write that the presents had not reached them.
So helping the hungry kids is not so simple. If you decide to do so, it is better to help with food or clothes, not money. Many funds today send pictures of the kids with the staff set by sponsors (although this does not guarantee anything too). Finally, try to choose those who do not beg for money, but also do something.

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